D. H. Lawrence. To the Editor of The Nation and Athenaeum
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108 ] D. H. Lawrence To the Editor of The Nation and Athenaeum The Nation and Athenaeum, 45 (5 Apr 1930) 11 Sir, Mr. E. M. Forster, in a letter in your issue of March 29th, says “straight out” that the late D. H. Lawrence was “the greatest imaginative novelist of our time.”1 I am the last person to wish to disparage the genius of Lawrence, or to disapprove when a writer of the eminence of Mr. Forster speaks “straight out.” But the virtue of speaking straight out is somewhat diminished if what one speaks is not sense. And unless we know exactly what Mr. Forster means by greatest, imaginative, and novelist, I submit that this judgment is meaningless. For there are at least three “novelists” of “our generation” – two of whom are living – for whom a similar claim might he made.2 Yours, etc., T. S. Eliot Notes 1. In his letter, following Lady Ottoline Morrell’s obituary tribute to Lawrence, Forster asserted: “All that we can do . . . is to say straight out that he was the greatest imaginative novelist of our generation” (888). 2. Forster replied in the issue of 12 Apr: “Mr. T. S. Eliot duly entangles me in his web. He asks what exactly I mean by ‘greatest,’ ‘imaginative’ and ‘novelist,’ and I cannot say. Worse still, I cannot even say what ‘exactly’ means – only that there are occasions when I would rather feel like a fly than a spider, and that the death of D. H. Lawrence is one of them” (209). TSE told Desmond MacCarthy on 8 Oct 1930 that the sentiments expressed in his letter “did not arise from my having a lower opinion of Lawrence than Forster has, but from a feeling of impatience with a worthless generalisation. What is wanted for Lawrence now is not praise or blame, but patient analysis” (L5 337). ...